Struggling mining industry can’t access federal wage subsidy, advocates say – by Hilary Bird (CBC News North – April 7, 2020)

Requirements ‘problematic’ according to Nunavut, N.W.T., and Yukon chambers of mines

While last week’s boost to the new Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was supposed to prop up struggling businesses — and the workers they employ — during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s doing nothing for the North’s now stagnant mining industry, mining advocates say.

In a letter obtained by CBC to the Minister of Northern Affairs, the president of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines Ken Armstrong and the Yukon Chamber of Mines president Ed Peart say the vast majority of companies they represent aren’t eligible for the subsidy. They’re calling on Ottawa to change requirements so that those in the northern mining industry, and their employees, can benefit.

Last Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the federal government would offer a 75 per cent wage subsidy to all businesses that have lost 30 per cent of their revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government had previously said it would only offer a 10 per cent subsidy.

To qualify, companies must show their revenue in March 2020 was 30 per cent less than it was in March 2019. The problem, according to the mine chambers, is that revenue from many mining-based companies is uneven year over year. In many cases, companies work on projects for months and only receive payment at the end. Even revenues month to month are far from constant, they wrote.

“A comparison of revenue to the same period last year is not reasonable or reflective of their revenue losses in 2020,” the letter states. “We recommend that all companies with active mining operations in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut should qualify for CEWS regardless of 30 per cent revenue shortfall requirement.”

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